Sermon Remembrance Sunday – 8th Nov 2020
The nation, again, gathers in this 11th month of the year, to remember those who gave their lives, their futures, to secure the 102 years we have enjoyed, since the end of the First Great War. We acknowledge the debt we owe them for all our tomorrows.
Over the years, we have quite rightly, also come to invest Remembrance Day with the RESOLVE to do justice to the cost of war its sacrifice and its shame.
This is a day to quieten our minds and arrest ourselves in the present, for the task of looking back and looking forward.
If ever, there was a day to recall Janus, the ancient Italian deity who is represented with two faces – so that he looks both to the past and the future – it is today. Indeed, Janus is also regarded as the protector of the state in times of war.
Considering, that the world has never honestly been released from the grips of war, we do need to continue to look at once towards our past and the future.
That way offers a realistic assessment of where we are.
Our second reading today, from 1 Thessalonians, commends just this way, this path, to us.
It asks us to follow the path of reality, the state of things as they exist as opposed to some idealised memory of our past or a notional vision of the future.
Christians must not mourn as those without hope.
The reality is that we have hope.
Remember we are assured of God’s power of resurrection.
And we should never forget that there is a time set for our dreams to be realised.
Be patient, we will yet assume our place in the clouds along with the saints.
The trouble, of course, is that we often forget or willfully ignore God’s power of the resurrection.
Moreover, we are often impatient or obsessed with our dreams.
We choose to live, implausibly, in the clouds.
If you’re wondering how these can be, let me remind you of the awful experiment of MAGA that has just been checked by Joe Biden’s emergence as President-elect of the USA.
MAGA, like many of the nationalist movements sweeping the world, (including Brexit), rest on an idealised memory of an imagined past and a notional vision of a glaringly fantasised future.
Paul tells us that both won’t do. We must avoid compromising the present by succumbing to both a revisionist past and daydreaming.
They are unsatisfactory windows to organizing our nations and indeed our personal lives.
This is what the gospel parable tells us too.
We have no purchase on the future.
It’s not given to us to set the time for the arrival of the bridegroom. The highpoints of events – celebrations and crises – are not ours to determine.
We must therefore learn to prepare ourselves and live our lives accordingly.
We must be realistic. We must live realistically, sensibly.
Why take two flasks of oil, when a proper assessment will inform you that you require five flasks?
The foolish virgins are judged for their failure to exercise due diligence.
They failed to inform themselves of the character of the groom.
They were unaware of the groom’s tendency to delay, to turn up only on His terms and in his own time
Often we too fall into this trap of measuring out what God should tolerate rather than allowing Him the latitude of His sovereign hold on creation.
The foolish maids were judged for their daring to set the terms of a marriage event at which they should have been mere privileged guests.
They were damned for turning the tables on the groom and lord of the dance.
Their predicament is similar to that of the man who chose to bury the talent he was entrusted with.
His reasons for that, if you recall was based on a an audaciously bold (not necessarily wrong) opinion of his benefactor.
He buried the talent rather than employ it because he did not wish to engage with someone he considered a demanding and wilful master.
As Christians it is time for us to get over it and admit that God is wilful.
He’ll turn up only on His own terms.
He’ll be profligate with His resources.
His love and grace are boundless extending even to the undeserving.
That is who God is.
He alone holds the glory and the power over the world.
And it is in His generosity only, that He invites us to join him in the task of shaping the world into His Kingdom.
This is our task as a people and nation on this and all Remembrance Days.
The challenge we are called to take up, is to stand as Janus with our nation, to protect her from all conflicts, threats of violence and terror – from whatever quarter.
We are to lookout as Janus does, both to the past and the future allowing us to reassess both imagined glories of the past and romantic visions of the future.
Instead we are to enter, realistic judgements about our place in the world and what it would take to fit into the bridegroom’s plans.
The grace to do this, is of course ever available to us in the love of God given to us in Christ Jesus.
That grace was made available to the brave men and women we remember today.
It is present in the dedication of the wise maidens who carried enough fuel to light the way for and to honour the groom.
Moreover, it remains available to all who:
* value the redeeming power and forgiveness in God’s love for all the world;
* believer in the promise of the coming Kingdom of God;
* work for a future of justice, peace, generosity, mercy and truth
So in tribute to such value, belief and work, let us continue to remember those who died in war and honour them for their sacrifice. As we do so, let us give thanks for the past, pray for the present and hope for the future.
We will remember them. Amen